Friday, January 28, 2011

FREE body browser

I recently saw a story about one of the newest Google Labs creation: Body Browser.  I immediately thought of how helpful this will be for A&P students.

The Body Browser is a FREE online tool that you can use to explore the anatomy of the human body in a "virtual dissection" format.  Using the familiar Google Maps navigation tools, you can . . .
  • Peel (or fade) away layers of the body . . . removing the skin, then muscles, then bones, to reveal the internal organs

  • Select systems (skeletal, muscular, nervous, cardiovascular) to view

  • Click on any structure to show its label

  • Type the name of any structure in the search box to find it in the body

  • Tilt, zoom, turn the body to a variety of positions to see organs in more views that usually available in a textbook, atlas, or chart
The Body Browser runs inside any WebGL-enabled browser, meaning that you don't have to worry about having the latest Flash or Java plugins installed.

I think Body Browser a is a great FREE tool for A&P students to have access to an online model of the human body that can be used for a beginning study of anatomy.  Because it allows the user to type in the names of organs for which they are looking, you can be certain it will work well with what you need to know for your course.

There are a few minor limitations of the Body Browser:
  • The only available specimen is female (that is, there is no male specimen available to complement the female specimen)

  • The specimen is partially clothed.  Although one can see some of the underlying surface structures as the "skin" layer fades back, it's not the same as seeing these structures clearly.  An odd feature that makes certain regions of the body "off limits." (I've seen some hacks to fix this, but none of them work for me using the Chrome browser)

  • Some of the organs are roughly rendered, so it's not as detailed (at least in some areas) as you may like to see

  • Only a few systems can be shown in entirety.  Some useful system views that are missing are the lymphatic system and the respiratory system

  • You cannot select or hide individual organs for display
  • I could find no documentation or even a help button (pretty typical of the experimental Google Labs resources)
Even with some minor limitations, Body Browser is still a fantastic learning and study tool.  As an A&P student, you might use Body Browser as . . .
  • a study tool during a solo or study group session to demonstrate the location and structure of specific organs

    • you could use it live or you could record a session with Jing or similar recording tool and use the pre-recorded exploration to review or to share with others in your study group or class

    • you can send the URL of a specific view (perhaps with a label) to a student or group of students or post it to Facebook, Twitter, or a class website

  • alternative lab model to use along with physical models in the lab

    • use it as a reference side by side with your lab manual and your laboratory model

    • use it in place of a laboratory model when studying at home or away from the lab
  • a way to create images for
    • your class notes
    • concept maps
    • study guides and review sheets
    • class presentations, lab reports, term papers, and other assignments

Do you have some other ideas for using Body Browser in an undergraduate A&P course?  Just use the comment feature and share your ideas with us!

Check out this video to see a demo of the currently available features of Body Browser

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Painless memorization with Quizlet

Understanding anatomy and physiology often begins with building a foundation of basic terminology and identification of structures by name and location.  Yikes, that means memorization.  

A lot of folks dread memorization tasks because they simply don't know how to do it in a quick, pain-free manner. Once you know the tricks of memorization, it's not that bad.

The essential trick is to practice, practice, practice. 

That means every day, several times a day, if possible.

However, this will only work if you spend just a few minutes at a time practicing.  If you try to get in all in one long session, it won't work . . . or at least least is won't work very well.  In fact, the "long session approach" can sometimes burn you out so badly, it'll be hard to make yourself study the same topic again.

One of the easiest ways to practice painlessly is to make and use flashcards.  I have a previous blog post and a study tip web page and even a YouTube video devoted to methods of using flashcards to study A&P effectively.

My friend Monica Hall-Woods (another A&P professor) reminded me recently of a website called where you can easily make a set of flashcards online (for FREE) and use it to study and to quiz yourself.  In fact, gives you some alternative methods to quiz yourself, including some fun, game-like activities.

The more practice sessions you do on, the more you'll almost effortlessly pick up the basic facts that you are trying to learn. helps you keep track of what you've studied and how you are doing.

You can also upload photos from . . . which means that you can take photos of your lab specimens with your smartphone, then upload the images into a set of flashcards!

Another great feature of is that you can form study groups.  This allows one or more users to post and share sets of flashcards related to a particular topic. also lets you use flashcard stacks that others have created.  (Warning: be careful those you use are accurate before using them to study.)  Here's a stack of cards that I created simply by cutting and pasting a list I already had into the editor:

Try it!  Use different options for quizzing yourself and playing games. I think you'll have fun with it. Which is the point . . . the less pain, the more gain.  At least in this case.

Let me know what you think!  And use the comment feature (below this blog article) to post your favorite sets you've made or found . . . so other A&P students can benefit.